How often are the elderly overmedicated in nursing homes? It’s a question that people are asking, and for good reason. Kentucky nursing home patients are often overmedicated to control them and make their lives easier for the staff.
Overmedication is a form of abuse, and it’s important to know what to do if you suspect your loved one is suffering from overmedication or chemical restraint in their Lexington, KY nursing home.
What Are Chemical Restraints?
While many nursing home patients require medicine, it should only be administered as directed by a medical practitioner and for a therapeutic purpose. Overmedication in Kentucky’s nursing homes is equivalent to abuse in its purest form. For example, it is unethical to drug a person to put them to sleep, for nursing home staff in Lexington to do their job easier, or to enforce discipline on a resident.
Chemical restraints are any medication used to control a person’s behavior or psychotropic drugs used to manage a person’s mental illness that is not required for the individual’s medical treatment. Unfortunately, the overuse of chemical restraints in nursing homes is widespread. Any medication that has a calming or disorienting effect may be used, but some examples are:
- Mood-stabilizing drugs
- Antipsychotic medications
Why Do Nursing Homes Overmedicate Their Patients?
There are many reasons why nursing home staff might overmedicate residents. The most common cause is to make the resident more manageable. This can be due to understaffing or because the team lacks the training to deal with certain behaviors. Other reasons include to:
- Control pain
- Reduce anxiety
- Calm disruptive behavior
- Induce sleep
Unfortunately, according to Human Rights Watch, in an average week, nursing facilities in the United States administer antipsychotic drugs to over 179,000 residents who do not have diagnoses for which the drugs are approved. Whatever the reason, overmedication is never acceptable. If you suspect overmedication is at play, there are some signs to look for that may indicate abuse. If you recognize them in your loved one’s situation, then you may want to consult with a nursing home abuse lawyer in Lexington to learn about their rights under Kentucky law.
What Are the Signs of Overmedication?
Overmedication is a problem in nursing homes in Kentucky and throughout the United States. No fewer than 20% of nursing home residents medically require antipsychotic medication. Yet, that doesn’t change the fact that you will find facilities with an even higher proportion of medically restrained residents.
Families with loved ones in nursing homes have a right to be concerned, but how would they tell if their elderly family member was a victim of overmedication? Typically, there are tell-tale signs:
- Drowsiness or fatigue: The resident is overly tired, sleeping too much, or lacks energy or motivation.
- Unusual changes in behavior or personality: The resident is more withdrawn, agitated, or confused than usual.
- Falls: The resident has a sudden increase in falls or injuries.
- Problems with movement: The resident has difficulty walking or moving around.
- Memory problems or confusion: The resident has difficulty remembering things or is confused about time and place.
Types of Overmedications in Nursing Homes in Kentucky
A few different types of overmedications can occur in nursing homes. The most common type is when residents are given antipsychotic medications on purpose or “with intent.”
Another kind of overmedication occurs when a Lexington nursing home resident is given unnecessary medicines for medical treatment by “accident” or unintentional overmedication. Usually, this happens because the staff isn’t trained to deal with the resident’s condition, or the resident is not getting the proper care they need.
How To Avoid Overmedication in Lexington Nursing Homes
Although nursing home staff have difficult roles, they should not be giving drugs to residents to “make their jobs easier.” Overmedication in nursing homes can be prevented by:
- Sufficient staffing that enables attendants to provide quality care for nursing home residents.
- Staff training on how to correctly give medication and how to deal with difficult residents.
- Regular check-ups by a qualified physician to ensure that the nursing home resident receives the proper care and medication.
Why It’s Important To Identify and Stop Overmedication in Nursing Homes
The use of antipsychotic medications can be appropriate to reduce violence against nursing staff, improve patient distress, and improve the resident’s quality of life. However, there is evidence that these medications can be associated with adverse patient effects, such as wrongful death.
According to some social workers, part of the underlying issue is that nursing homes want docile patients instead of behavior problems. So, overmedication is seen as a cost-effective measure to control unwanted behaviors. However, there are a few reasons why overmedication in nursing homes in Lexington is a problem.
- It can harm the resident’s health, eventually leading to death. Approximately 15,000 residents a year die from unprescribed medications.
- It can cover up nursing home abuse and neglect, leading to a continuous cycle of abuse.
- It can make it more difficult for the resident to leave the nursing home as they become more reliant on the medication.
What Should You Do if You Suspect Your Loved One Is Being Overmedicated?
Typically, mood swings and other potential changes are very apparent. If your family member is acting strangely, request a record of the medicines given to them. Suppose you see antipsychotic or sedative drugs that you are unfamiliar with or are new. If that’s the case, you should ask why the patient is taking the medication, how long they have been on it, and when their treatment will end.
If that route doesn’t work, you can always try a few other things:
- Speak with an administrator: If you are not getting the answers you need, speak with the nursing home administrator. Take notes and keep them handy if necessary.
- File a complaint with the Commonwealth of Kentucky: If you believe your loved one is being overmedicated, you can file a complaint with the Kentucky Ombudsmen. Ombudsmen are advocates for nursing home residents and will investigate your claim.
- Call the authorities: If you believe your loved one is in immediate danger, call 911.
- Contact an attorney: If you believe your loved one has been overmedicated or abused, contact a nursing home abuse attorney. An experienced lawyer like ours at the Law Office of Todd W. Burris can help you pursue your claim of abuse.
How a Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Can Help
Overmedicating nursing home patients is a problem because it can lead to abuse, neglect, and death. Contact our nursing home abuse lawyer if you suspect your loved one is being overmedicated to discuss your case and learn your rights in it. Your initial consultation is free.